Hello gentle reader,
Welcome to the Successful Queries Blog Series! The idea is to share with you Queries That Worked and to find out what made them stand out in the slushpile. My hope is that it’ll help you, querying writers, to write an amazing query for your own manuscript and to find Your Agent.
Today the very wise Dahlia Adler is sharing her query and answering a few questions. Dahlia writes YA Contemporary fiction and she’s represented by Lana Popovic at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth.
Dear Ms. Popovic,
Thank you so much for expressing interest in my query during PitchMas!
Reagan Forrester wants out–out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.
Victoria Reyes wants in–in to a fashion design program and a sorority, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn’t go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won’t stand out for being Mexican.
One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re going together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective… only to learn she’s set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria realizes everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they’ve sworn to leave.
As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don’t know about each other’s pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they’ll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.
JUST VISITING is an 86,000-word contemporary YA novel that will appeal to fans of the upper-YA coming-of-age themes and dual perspectives of Sara Zarr’s HOW TO SAVE A LIFE and the layered friendships explored through travel in Nina LaCour’s THE DISENCHANTMENTS. I work as an Assistant Editor of Mathematics, as well as a Copy Editor, and am a member of SCBWI. My debut novel, BEHIND THE SCENES, will release from Spencer Hill Contemporary in June 2014, with two more to follow.
I’d love to send you material upon request. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
How long did it take you to write this query?
I don’t remember exactly how long it took me to write the query, but I think sum total was only a few days. It was the fourth manuscript I’d queried, and I think query-writing is one of those things that actually does get easier. There was definitely tweaking done to the original version, but it always looked a lot like this. (This is a little choppier, especially at the start, than most I sent out. If I recall correctly, it’s because I did it through the agency’s website submission system, which has a word count maximum.)
Did you have beta readers or CPs (or did you enter contests or workshops) to help you with your query?
My CPs Maggie Hall, Marieke Nijkamp, and Gina Ciocca read and improve just about everything I do, and this was no exception! My wonderful friend Rick Lipman read it too, which was really helpful because unlike my CPs, he hadn’t read the manuscript. They all definitely helped tweak for better phrasing and clarity.
What was the hardest part to get right?
The hardest part was definitely writing it for a dual-POV. A lot of query advice says to only tackle one in the query, and then just mention it alternates at the end of the letter, and I definitely think that’s the right tactic in a lot of cases, particularly in Romance. But here, it was really important to me not to implant the idea in a reader’s brain that one story was dominant. This is a best friendship story, and I really wanted to give them as equal footing as possible. It’s definitely on the longer side for a query, but I think it’s right for the story. I agree that you have to learn the rules before you can break them, and I felt like I’d reached the point of learning that allowed me to buck conventional query wisdom.
Any advice for querying writers out there?
The number one advice I’d give to query writers out there is to have someone who hasn’t read your book read your query. It’s really hard to know what doesn’t make sense to an outside reader who has no story background other than what you’re putting out there. I’d also say, as someone who’s read a zillion queries in contests, don’t be vague. Every detail should be something that’s unique to your story. Nothing makes eyes glaze over like “And then her world turned upside down.” There’s a huge range between being vague and spoiling the ending – find something in there.
I’d also add that although I used comp titles in this query, I only did so because they really, really screamed to me as being just right for this book. But they’re not something to be forced. If you have nothing but bestsellers to use, or can’t think of anything at all, just don’t use them. They can be really helpful when done right, but really off-putting when not. Their absence won’t be noted anywhere near as much as poor usage will.
Thank you so much for taking part in this blog series, Dahlia!
Any questions? Ask below!